Why Are Orchid Leaves Turning Brown | 9 Reasons + Quick Fixes?

Just by looking at Orchids, you can tell that these plants are unlike anything else in your garden. Their leaves, roots, and flowers are unique. But, this beauty comes at a cost as they require good care. On the first signs of browning, you will be eager to learn why are orchid leaves turning brown all of a sudden. 

Orchid leaves turn brown due to:

  1. Inadequate water
  2. Excessive heat
  3. Diseases
  4. Temperature and humidity
  5. Dehydration
  6. Fertilizer burn and Salt Burn
  7. Nutritional deficiencies
  8. Cold damage
  9. Water Quality

Read on to learn more about the reasons why orchid leaves turn brown. 

Three Different Orchid Leaf Browning Patterns

Orchid leaves turning brown follow a certain pattern. There are three variations with different reasons for each one.

  1. Brown spots. Random brown spots appear on the leaves, forming circles that can grow larger and darker over time. If you do not treat them they may cover the entire leaf.
  1. Brown Leaf Tips. The tips of the leaves have a papery brown appearance, if touched the leaf could partly disintegrate due to dryness. Brown tips are common among orchids due to a lack of water. 
  1. Leaves That Are Completely Brown. You will witness the leaves transition from green to yellow and then brown before falling off the plant. It commonly occurs starting from the lower extremities of the plant but can occur at the middle or top. This could also mean leaf rot disease.

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Reasons and Solutions For Orchid Leaves Turning Brown

Orchids are in a league of their own. One of the most beautiful and exotic flowers. Did you know that at one point they were rare and not everyone could own or look after them?

But today they are seen at every nursery and with a price tag more or less suitable for everyone. There are still problems people encounter in taking care of them. There are simple solutions for all of the issues you may be experiencing. 

Let’s discuss these problems individually and make you an orchid growing pro!

#1- Not Enough Water

Surprisingly, underwatering is the main reason orchid leaves turn brown. If your orchid is thirsty, it will not be able to absorb nutrients and the plant’s cells will lose firmness.

The symptoms of an orchid with water deprivation are as follows:

  • Very dry growth media
  • Crisp brown tips and edges
  • Yellowing of leaves
  • Wrinkly leather-like leaves
  • Droopy and scraggly growth
  • Gray and shriveled roots
  • Dry aerial roots

As soon as you witness these symptoms, know that your orchid needs water immediately! 

Quick Fix

Start by giving your orchid a good soaking in a container big enough to accommodate the whole pot. Later, lift the whole plant out of the water and allow it to drain completely. After this watering, you can water it again when the media is starting to dry out. 

The frequency of watering depends upon the orchid genus you have and its particular water requirements. It differs from one to another. 

For example, Cattleyas don’t need to be watered as often as Phalaenopsis. Cattleyas have pseudobulbs which is a type of storage organ and phalaenopsis does not have anything in which to store moisture.

NOTE- Therefore all orchids that do not have pseudobulbs need to be watered more often. 

#2- Too Much Sun

Another reason for Leaves becoming brown is profuse heat. Intense sun rays and a generally dry environment will decrease the leaf’s moisture and chlorophyll, causing it to burn and brown! 

The flowers become weak, dry, wrinkled, and eventually brown. After this, the next likely outcome will be dead orchid leaves. The leaves become white with a dark circle around it after browning. 

Other signs can include yellowing of tips and yellow edges in the initial stages. This is usually the first sign that something needs to be done to help your orchids. The yellow color soon becomes brown with brown spots. Soon the leaf will become paler in color.

Quick Fix

Orchids need about 12 to 16 hours of indirect light a day. So, you may think you can halve this time by giving them intense direct sunlight. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way! 

A couple of hours of direct heat a day is ok provided it is early morning sun or late afternoon sun. But, do not place the orchid in the hot midday sun or afternoon sun. This may induce browning all over again. 

#3- Diseases 

Orchids also get affected by a long list of diseases. Like other plants, most of these diseases are brought about by bacteria, pests, and fungi. Have a look at what could possibly be making your orchid leaves turn brown if it is a disease.

Quick Fix

Bacterial And Brown SpotThis disease impacts the leaves and pseudobulbs, as well as the roots. This could later turn brown or black.Remove all infected parts. Avoid humid conditions and to avoid this bacteria, occasionally spray plants with a bacteriacide.
Brown Spot PseudomonasYou will see water-soaked lesions or blisters that will join together. Then they will turn black or brown and will appear sunken and dry up.Remove the infected parts. Spray with a copper-based bactericide and the plants should not be kept in a humid atmosphere.
Black RotSymptoms of this fungal infection include Water soaked uneven brown spots that turn purplish black with a yellow circle around them.Discard the plant as this is a highly contagious disease. Isolate from other plants.
AnthracnoseLeaves turn brown starting from the leaf tips and going down to the base. You might see gray or brown patches.Use a systemic fungicide or a protectant fungicide to treat the plants. Also, ensure good air circulation.
Cercospora Leaf SpotInitially, you will see yellow-green on the upper leaf surface, as they age, they become sunken and purplish black.Cut out all sick parts with sterilized cutters and treat with a fungicide. Also, treat monthly with a fungicide and ensure good air circulation.
Phyllosticta Leaf SpotThis blight begins on the leaf or pseudobulb tiny sunken lesions. Which progress to be oval, then become reddish and purple-black. Later the center develops spores.Cut out the infected parts with sterilized pruners. Spray with a fungicide, To prevent this disease avoid wetting the leaves. Promote good air circulation.
Septoria Leaf Spot  This begins as small sunken spots on the lamina which expand and turns brown to black. Irregular or circular lesions will be visible.Cut off the bad parts and treat with a fungicide. Do not wet the leaves and again good air circulation is important.

#4- Temperature And Humidity

For an orchid to grow and thrive it needs optimal temperatures. Orchid growth is influenced by a number of factors of which temperature is one of the most important. 

Naturally, orchids originate from humid areas such as rainforests and jungles. Additionally, they need a cool environment where moisture and heat are equally available. 

Temperature affects the plant both immediately and in the future. Orchids need temperatures of 60℉ and 80℉. If your orchid has been exposed to temperatures too high or low to sustain the plant, it will cause the leaves to turn brown and wilt.

Quick Fix

If you have one, get out your thermometer to determine the temperature. Check if it is in the range suitable for orchids. If not you can move your plants to another position. 

But, what if you are still struggling to maintain optimal temperature levels? Well then, you might have to purchase a fan or a humidifier. Additionally, a grow tent/greenhouse where you can control the atmosphere would be another suitable option to choose. 

#5- Transplant Shock

Is your orchid just a few days or weeks old and it is getting brown leaves? Don’t worry since a logical reason explains brown leaves on orchids that have been transplanted.

Your orchid could be suffering from transplant shock or is not yet acclimatized to its new home! 

Quick Fix

Do everything you can to ensure your plants are placed in a new environment that mimics ideal growing conditions. Also, provide them with the best care for a certain amount of time after transplanting as this can help them acclimatize to their new environment faster. 

Caring for your orchid after transplanting or repotting involves ensuring you use a suitable medium, water them more often, and observe their location to measure sunlight patterns. 

#6- Fertilizer Burn And Salt Burn

Salt/Fertilizer burn can brown your orchid leaves too! It occurs because of overfeeding or incorrect fertilizer application. When the salt collects it becomes hard for your plant to absorb water, and that is when the salt burns the roots. 

Different orchid genera have different tolerance levels to salt. The most sensitive ones are Bulbophyllum, Phragmipedium, and Paphiopedilum. 

The signs of fertilizer and salt burn include brown tips and margins. Stunted growth and leaves falling off are other symptoms to look out for. 

Quick Fix

Put the pot in your sink and pour plenty of water on it to flush out all the build-up of salt or fertilizer. Do this every month or once every 2 months. After this, you can feed your orchid a weak balanced houseplant fertilizer every week or two.

If you do not water your orchids regularly, dilute the feed even more as you may burn the roots.

Check out this: Miracle-Gro Water Soluble Orchid Food

#7- Nutritional Deficiencies 

Nutritional deficiencies are another scenario and reason why your plant has brown leaves. When nutrients are to blame you will notice the following: yellowing in-between the veins, yellow spots, stunted growth, and deformed leaves.

A Potassium (K) deficiency will result in orchid leaf margin and tip necrosis (cell death), making the area dry, brown, or black. The plants may also have randomly scattered brown or black spots.

Magnesium (Mg) deficiency will also cause yellowing between the veins and leaf tips to turn brown and eventually die off. A Phosphorus (P) deficiency on the other hand will cause a reddish-brown discoloration on the leaves.  

Quick Fix

To counteract any nutritional deficiencies, go for a balanced fertilizer such as NPK 20-20-20 or other balanced fertilizers. Micronutrients are also necessary, use them weekly or biweekly. Be sure to start them on a weak dose initially.

If it is a Calcium or Magnesium deficiency you can try Cal-Mag fertilizer or Epsom salts.

NOTE- You will probably have to use a water-soluble fertilizer as it ensures easier application and even easier absorption by the Orchids. 

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#8- Damage From Cold

This is an unusual reason for browning leaves. But, it is a legitimate reason nonetheless. Cold damage will make the water-soaked areas wilt and turn brown. Because these areas are more prone to freezing. 

Your plant can also be susceptible to stunted growth or bacterial and fungal diseases when cold temperatures hit your area. 

Quick Fix

Maintain a temperature of 75℉ during the day and do not let the nighttime temperatures drop below 65 ℉. Of course, this depends on the genus of orchids you have.

To keep your orchids safe from the cold, you should keep them out of the cold. Bringing them indoors is the best start. Actually, many professional orchid growers keep their orchids indoors throughout the year, only changing their position to get more sunlight.  

#9- Water Quality

If all other factors are optimal, the water is probably the culprit. You can check the water using a simple water testing kit. It will show the range in which certain metals and minerals are present. 

Sometimes poor quality water contains salts, Chlorine, Fluoride, and mineral ions. All of which are unhealthy for your plants and possibly even toxic when present in high amounts. 

Salt accumulation can affect your orchids in the same way as over-fertilizing does, by burning them. Also, Chlorine and Fluoride can cause your orchid leaf margins and leaf tips to turn brown.  

Quick Fix

To ensure your orchid doesn’t suffer the consequences of poor water quality, use filtered water or rainwater. If the water test kit shows high Chlorine levels as the only problem, keep the water in an open container to deplete the chlorine naturally. 

Steer clear of questionable water sources that may look adulterated or may be situated near a chemical manufacturer. 


Keeping your orchid happy and healthy may seem close to impossible. Especially when you start to notice the browning of the leaves. However, even the slightest brown spot could be the first sign that something is wrong. 

“Why are my orchid leaves turning brown” is a common query a novel orchid grower will ask while caring for their plants. 

Reasons for orchid leaves turning brown are:

Inadequate water, Excessive heat, Diseases, Temperature and humidity, Dehydration, Fertilizer & Salt Burn, Nutritional deficiencies, Cold damage, and Water Quality

Other garden plant solutions: Plumeria Leaves Curling | 11 Causes + Solutions 


Is it safe to use tap water for my orchids?

Yes, you can use tap water for your orchids. Just make sure to check it before you provide it to your orchid plants. Check for mineral levels and the presence of metal ions that can be detrimental to your plants. 

How to water orchids with ice cubes?

Simply put 3 ice cubes on the surface of the pot’s media. Ensure the ice cubes are not making contact with any of the orchid’s parts (leaves, stems, roots.) The cubes will melt gradually and be absorbed immediately. Thus, you cannot underwater or overwater using the ice cube method.